People are vital in growing your business.

I won’t say your people are the “most important asset” of your business—because people are not things—but your business will succeed or fail based upon the people who are involved.

Some of those people are clients and customers, some are evangelists and supporters, and some are your staff, co-owners, investors, and joint venture partners.

Having more people can leverage the growth of your business, but they also add complexity and difficulties in managing the expectations and communication of all your different relationships.

Here are a few important considerations to have in mind:

#1 — Be intentional about the relationship you are creating.

Whether this will be a contractual, employment, partnership, or joint venture relationship, be specific about what you are creating, and know the rules. It is easy to cause a mess when an accidental partnership or employment is created, resulting in liability and tax burdens that neither party intended.

#2 — Make the big decisions while you are still in love.

Most people who do business together already know each other, and instead of working out all of the details of their agreement, they rely upon their friendship or resonance or history of being colleagues. This lack of express communication will not be helpful when the small miscommunications and conflicts begin. Therefore it is essential that you decide at the outset what will happen if either party breaks a promise in the future, or even just needs to get out, so you can agree to fair ramifications and hopefully avoid litigation in the future.

#3 — State all of the expectations up front, in writing.

Most conflict happens because we cannot read each other’s minds. We may each have completely reasonable expectations, but because we often do not communicate our assumptions, we are disrespected or hurt when they are not met. Writing down all of these expectations and creating a contract (or, at the least, writing them all down in one email), will help you avoid many potential misunderstandings.

#4 — Plan for a graceful end.

Even if this business lasts forever, I can guarantee that the people involved will not.

Most of the time, the people involved will eventually move on—to different projects, jobs, or businesses. When you start any relationship, you should determine, at the relationship’s inception, what will happen when either party needs or wants out, so you can architect a graceful exit that causes the least amount of conflict or upset.

You can use these four principles to craft a formal written contract, or even just to sketch out an informal agreement in an email. But either way, these principles will help you establish and maintain healthy relationships as your business grows.

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